The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind

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At the Academy Awards, it was noted that this was the 75th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz, which was nominated for best picture and won awards for best song and best original score. The 1939 Academy Awards have long been considered to have been one of the strongest years, including classic movies such as Dark Victory, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach and Wuthering Heights.

But the winner that year was, of course, Gone with the Wind. It was a little peculiar that the 75th anniversary of that movie went unmentioned, even though Gone with the Wind is clearly one of the leading films of all time, receiving 10 academy awards and according to Wikipedia “becoming the highest-earning film made up to that point,” a record it “retained for over a quarter of a century . Adjusted for inflation, it is still the most successful film in box-office history.”

The likely reason for the omission of Gone with the Wind is that the film does not accord with modern sensibilities about matters of race, and clearly presents slavery, if not in a positive light, than in a far less negative light than it deserves. This would have clashed with an Academy Awards that conferred a best picture award on 12 Years a Slave (and two significant awards on Dallas Buyers Club).

Still, the Academy might have felt comfortable mentioning Gone with the Wind for a couple of reasons in addition to those mentioned above – to note its “feminist” portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara and to comment on Hattie McDaniel’s Academy Award (the first for a black actor).